MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Danny Valencia welcomed Joe Mauer back to Minnesota with a three-run home run in the first inning Friday, and the Twins held on to beat the San Diego Padres 6-5 for their fifth straight win.
Mauer played for the first time since April 12, the leg problems finally behind him. Greeted with a standing ovation before his first at-bat, Mauer hit an RBI single, but he later grounded into a double play and left five men on base. The Twins have won 12 of their last 14 games.
Brian Duensing (4-6) picked up the victory with six effective if inefficient innings, and the Padres lost for the sixth time in seven games despite a 4 for 5 performance by Chase Headley. He drove in two runs, and Ryan Ludwick hit a three-run homer in the seventh.
Clayton Richard (2-9) lost his fifth straight decision, a career-longest streak. He gave up five runs in the first inning.
Glen Perkins, making his first appearance for the Twins since May 21, struck out two in a scoreless eighth. Matt Capps followed with a perfect ninth for his 10th save, in 15 attempts this season.
Mauer, the three-time American League batting champion and ever the patient hitter, predictably took the first pitch he saw from Richard. He drove in the game’s first run with a bouncer up the middle and scored on Michael Cuddyer’s broken-bat bloop ground-rule double, before a walk by Delmon Young and the big hit by Valencia gave the Twins a 5-0 advantage.
That hit raised Mauer’s batting average 22 points, a strange sight for a June night.
The last-place Padres had two errors, a wild pitch and a passed ball in that ugly half-inning, but Richard recovered enough to work two batters into the sixth. Pat Neshek, the native of nearby Brooklyn Park, a few miles from Target Field, relieved Richard with two on and none out and finished the frame unscathed by retiring Mauer on a routine fly to left with the bases loaded.
Ben Revere stretched the lead to 6-1 with an RBI single in the fourth after providing a big play an inning earlier in center field.
Revere lunged forward and nearly made a diving catch of Chris Denorfia’s sinking liner, an effort so intense he broke his belt.
Revere smiled as he jogged to fetch a new belt from the bat boy, and the fans cheered and laughed.
Duensing sweated through the fifth, giving up an RBI double to Headley. The left-hander finished with 106 pitches, seven hits, one walk, five strikeouts and a 6-2 lead. But after a pair of two-out singles against Alex Burnett in the seventh, Ludwick launched a first-pitch fastball into the second deck to pull the Padres within one.
Though Richard was already out of the game, this was unfamiliar support for the struggling left-hander. The Padres scored only five runs — total — in his past five starts. The former Chicago White Sox prospect, who came to the Padres in the Jake Peavy trade two years ago, has a 6.33 ERA on the road.
Notes: Jesus Guzman made his Padres debut in LF. He made a difficult, crashing catch into the wall to take an extra-base hit from Cuddyer in the fifth. … Twins SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka made his fourth error of the season. He’s played in only eight games. … Ludwick took a turn as the DH for the Padres. … Twins RH Kevin Slowey’s recovery from an abdominal muscle strain has been slow, no pun intended. Slowey, at the team’s minor league complex in Fort Myers, Fla., played long toss Friday and is set for a bullpen session Sunday. Slowey, who made 82 starts over the previous four seasons, has made only six relief appearances this year. … Neshek wasn’t the only former Twins player to return to Minnesota. SS Jason Bartlett joined him. 2B Orlando Hudson is hurt, however, and on a minor-league rehab assignment.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)